Reblog: Darkness and the Winter Solstice

Here is a reblog from today’s post I put on on DruidHeart, my blog for SageWoman Magazine at Witches and Pagans…

The solstice season is upon us, and it’s only a couple of weeks before the longest night of the year here in the northern hemisphere. It’s a season of darkness and cold, where we are given the opportunity to find the gifts that darkness brings. It can be hard, when the rest of the world seems to be doing their best to stave off their fear with bright lights, noise and extended shopping hours, but if we are able to push beyond that we can see the sacredness of this holy time, and the exquisite power that it brings.

I am mostly a diurnal creature myself. I prefer to go to bed early and rise early, rather than staying up late. However, at this time of year the darkness catches up with me, and by 4pm it is pitch black out there. My usual sunshine nature turns inwards, and time for reflection and contemplation kick in. But that is not all there is to the darkness that pervades my life at this time of year. The sweet relief of darkness beckons me to release into its embrace, when edges are abandoned and we are allowed to float free in space and time.

Darkness breaks down edges and boundaries. Our visual nature cannot cope with darkness; our low-light vision is pretty terrible. We can’t see where the edges of things are, and they all become one in a tapestry of shades of black that we are unable to penetrate. This causes many to panic, terror rising in our bellies as our instinctive fear of the dark come to the fore. Through many millennia of existence, we have been creatures of the daylight, and know that our soft bodies are food for many things after the sun sets. This instinctual fear is still deep in our genes, as anyone who is out in the woods with bears and cougars at night can sympathise. Deep in our bones, we know that there is danger in darkness…

To read the full article, click HERE.

 

Reblog: In the summertime…

Here’s a taster of my latest blog post at SageWoman Magazine’s site, to read the full post click HERE!

P1060324 (1024x768)I love the summer. The heat of the sun, the long days, the unending twilight at this time of year – it’s a brilliant time to be alive. I find at this time of year there is nowhere to hide: you must face what the light shines on you or try to hide in air-conditioned rooms with recycled air, breathing in that stale, same old, same old.

It’s a time when the layers come off, physically and metaphorically. As we expose some skin to the wonderful sunlight (with proper protection) so too do we expose our souls to the light, shining it in all the corners of our psyche. Summer is a time for exploration, for rejuvenation, for relaxation. It’s time to let your hair down and get a bit sweaty.

Many within the pagan tradition see Samhain as the time to face demons, your monsters that can take over and lead you into unacceptable behaviour. But for me it is summer, where I can lay them out on the lawn and watch them wriggle in the full light of the sun – that is where I find the denouement, the closure in my life’s little episodes.

Summer is a time when I have to face certain things head on: my body for one…

To read full article, click HERE.

Summer solstice ritual

Last night a couple of friends and I went out onto the heath to celebrate the summer solstice. We have a tight-knit little group of friends, who feel a deep and abiding love of this land and who choose to celebrate it with spontaneous ritual. Tired as we were, we decided to forego the planned ritual in the backyard around the firepit and instead sought the wildnerness of the heath.

The clouds came in and it looked ominous, but we just smiled and headed out into the wilds with our drums. We came across small herds of young deer almost straight away, maybe a year old, hanging out together like many teenagers do. We made our way to a small wood of beech and pine trees, just before the rain began to fall softly.

The smell of green and growing things was all around us, the canopy of beech trees waving in the wind above us. Beneath the tall, grey trunks lay the remains of a fallen tree, a perfect altar around which we stood, pulling our drums out of our bags. Without a word we spread out around the altar, pulling drums out of our bags and beginning to drum softly, the heartbeat of the land at dusk.

Warming to the heartbeat, we let it die away into the quiet of the deepening dark. We then took a few deep breaths, allowing the energy of the land and the time of year to infuse our spirit. The drums then began to beat again, a rising rhythm of joy and celebration, ringing out to all who could hear. And indeed, many did hear – a herd of young deer came running over to us, to see what was going on, their inquisitive eyes watching us, then recognising us and resuming their normal business.

We began to chant, a chant to Elen, which merged into a chant of the summer solstice. We sang of the land around us, honouring all that was happening in that moment. Fully immersed in the serpent energy swirling around us at this sacred time of the year, we allowed the awen to flow through us, as vehicles for the inspiration to come through and be expressed in deep reverence and joy.

As the darkness deepened we moved to a lighter patch beneath the beech trees, and began to dance. We dance the sacred round, hand to hand.

We then moved out onto the open heath, the wind picking up and the setting sun glowing in the north-west. The crescent moon appeared every now and then from behind tattered clouds in the west. We spoke of our thanks for our blessings, of the courage to walk into the dark half of the year, of the brilliance and our thanks for the light and for the teachings of the coming darkness.

As the sun disappeared beneath the horizon we made our way home, across the sandy soil and past the field of green barley, harvested last week. Where our bodies were previously tired, smiles now replaced yawns, and our bodies hummed with the wonderful energy of the summer solstice.

May we be the awen.

Interview in Aontacht

I was recently interviewed for Druidic Dawn’s Magazine, Aontacht for their summer solstice edition.  You can read the whole thing HERE.

Blessings of the solstice to you all! I hope you have all had a great weekend. x

Patty Griffin – Forgiveness

In the time of greatest light, we cannot hide.  We face our demons, head on, letting our nearest star shine its light upon all that we would attempt to hide. And beneath it all, we remember that a body needs forgiveness…

Blessings of the summer solstice to you all. x

Book Review: The Magic of the Summer Solstice

Magic of Summer Solstice Danu ForestFellow author, Druid and all around lovely person, Danu Forest has written the first in a series of e-books that detail aspects of each of the eight pagan festivals, otherwise commonly known as The Wheel of the Year.

Her first book, The Magic of the Summer Solstice, is a well written, well-rounded account of folklore and customs that surround this time of the highest light.  It is also filled with arts and crafts to do during the summer solstice, as well as recipes, meditation, visualisations and more. There are also lovely, simple illustrations by her talented husband and artist (and excellent drummer – my doumbek came alive in his hands at Druid Camp last year!), Dan Goodfellow.

I loved this little book. I loved it so much I read it twice.  I really look forward to reading the others in the series, and to find ways to incorporate some of the ideas into my own personal ritual practice.

For the time being, I’m keeping an eye on the elder tree in my backyard for making cordials, and will be making a lovely sun wheel for our group celebration later this month!

P.S. Just to top it all off, I was also delighted to see that at the end of the e-book was this!

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Reblog: Reach for the light, rooted in the earth…

The days are getting so long, with early sunrises and late sunsets. And yet, there still doesn’t seem to be enough time to do everything in a day at this time of year. My schedule is packed, and I’m very tired but happy at the end of each day. Summer madness has sprung, with so much to do! This is a re-blog from my latest post at SageWoman, where during this time of greatest light it’s essential to keep our feet rooted in the ground while reaching for the heavens.

The swirls and eddies of the rising tide pull us ever closer into the dizzying dance that is summer. Here in the British Isles, summer is when everything happens: festivals appear from May to September, weekend events and week-long retreats. It’s a busy time of year, when we ride the solar energies to the point of highest light. We feel our spirits rising with the sun, and let its rays illuminate our paths and nourish us body and soul.

It’s easy to get caught up in the frenzy. My schedule is packed until October, with pagan events, priestly duties and more. By the end of May I can already begin to feel a little burned out, and summer hasn’t even really gotten into its stride yet. What I have to do is look to nature for inspiration.

The growing tides of light can entice us to do more than we should, to overbook or overcommit ourselves. What we don’t want to happen is to have the summer solstice upon us and be too tired to celebrate it. We need to harness our energies, to pool our resources so that we can access those lush depths when the time is right…

To read the full article, click HERE.

Solstice Practice

This post was originally  displayed on SageWoman’s channel, on my blog DruidHeart at Witches & Pagans.

Around the winter solstice is the time of year when many people get together, families and friends, to celebrate the holidays. If we are fortunate, we have some time off to be together, all together in one place – we may not have such an opportunity until the next solstice season rolls around. It can be a wonderful time of loving hugs, good conversation and deep, belly filled laughs. It can also be a trying time, when the bonds of friendship or family can become tested as we are all thrown together, our usual routines and habits left behind and we are faced with situations that are perhaps out of the norm.

My home is usually very quiet, filled with deep silence and stillness. In that silence I find my personal sanctuary, where peace is around every corner. I’m not a big fan of crowds or noise. However, at this time of year, I leave behind my little sanctuary and venture out into the world of lights and noise, family and friends when I’d really rather be sitting on my meditation cushion in the dark, with a candle and some incense.

It’s quite a shift to deal with. There is constant noise around me, different noise to that of my own home. It’s the noise of other people, which I am not accustomed to. Loud televisions, conversations, arguments, laughter – it’s a bit of an assault on my senses. Dealing with other people’s behaviour when there is no opportunity to “escape”. I have to confront everything that upsets me head on, or lose my temper, say something in anger as my “sanctuary” is thrown out the window.

Or is it? Yes, it’s difficult. Even as I type this blog, there are interruptions by people walking in and out of the room, asking me what I’m doing and other various questions. Nemetona, my goddess of sanctuary, has taught me that she is ever within me even as she is without – I take her with me wherever I go, and where I go she is always there.

In my Zen practice, this time of year provides me with innumerable ways to really practice. Life becomes difficult when things don’t go our way. When we realise this, and when we see that life is simply going ahead whether we like it or not, things can become easier. I have to deal with behaviour that I don’t like – this gives me a chance to practice and to try to understand that person’s behaviour. Often I can see myself reflected in it, or see that they are lost in their own suffering. I can try to ease that, when I remember to try to understand it. When it just pisses me off, I’m not trying to understand, and anger can erupt. When this occurs, I realise that I am not practicing very well, that I am not aware of my own reactions and behaviour. It’s a constant reminder to look deeply at myself, to see my patterns and to alter them in order to have peace and harmony both within and without. My goddess and my Zen practice help me with this understanding.

I have two choices when I find myself in difficult circumstances – get upset or not get upset. When people are shouting in the kitchen, or using words unkindly, or their behaviour is totally out of sync with creating harmony, I feel a tightness, a contraction within my body. Getting upset with this only tightens that contraction even further, making me miserable, or lashing out in anger in a misguided attempt to alleviate the tightness within. Seeing people mistreat each other, taking each other for granted – all of these things can cause contractions within. Passive/aggressive behaviour, words that are intented to provoke, noise levels louder than they need to be – all these things cause a contraction within my body. I want to loosen that contraction, but how?

Sitting and walking meditation practice, daily, really help me through this challenging time. By sitting, I am aware of my body, and aware of my thoughts. I see patterns in my behaviour. I see the self that is screaming for attention, for comfort, for sanctuary. I also then see the illusion of the separate self, and the inter-connectedness of all things. We are all dependent on everything else – the sunlight, the rain, our parents, the air, food. Without any of these things we could not exist. We are in them and they are in us.

When people’s behaviour challenges us, it helps to remind ourselves of this inter-connectedness. They are in me, and I am in them. It’s easy to do when out in the forest, becoming one with nature. But in challenging situations, with people we are often more directly faced with egos and personalities, with habits and the ego’s constant self-regard. When someone says something that upsets us, instead of thinking “I’m so upset that he said that” we can just realise that he said something. That’s the truth of the matter. Someone simply said something. We can act on what they said, of course, if they are saying inappropriate things. But we don’t have to act on it in anger, simply in awareness. Things happen. People behave the way they do. We can either get upset and lose our practice, or we can see the opportunities to become even more aware of our selves. In this awareness lies peace.

Slowly losing our separate sense of self, our egos begin to dissolve. We listen more. We apologise more. We find a deep well of peace to draw from, where we nourish that which brings peace and harmony. We don’t ignore our feelings, but we don’t feed those that create discord. We’ve no wish to stay in that contraction, no desire to create it in others.

Use this time of year as an opportunity to practice, to see how in nature we are all connected. See how the awen flows, how we are inspired by each other in each and every moment. Use difficult situations as the chance to become aware of your self and the world around you. It’s not easy, I’m being challenged constantly. It’s also a wonderful opportunity to fully immerse in the flow of awen, and not to be bashed against the rocks and caught in the swirls and eddies in the river of life. When life isn’t going the way that you would like it to, simply remember that. When we are angry or depressed, remember that it is because life isn’t going the way we want it to. Work with those feelings, work with others, and the practice will begin to show its rewards in less contraction, less anger and less upset. Peace begins to seep in, trickling through out insight, aware of the delicious drops of awen upon our tongue.

Isn’t that what this time of year is all about? Peace and love, awareness of the darkness and the returning light, the times and tides of life. May this time of year bring you many chances to practice, and may you find true joy in that practice.

Reblog: The Winter Solstice – No Birth, No Death

This is a reblog from my site, Druidheart, at SageWoman’s channel on Witches and Pagans. To read the whole post, click HERE.

With the Winter Solstice approaching, and in the cold dark months of the year, we have an excellent opportunity to reflect upon the deeper parts of our existence, those shadowy elements that seem to fade away so easily in the heat of the midday sun, those thoughts that require darkness and the teaching that it can bring. Thoughts such as life and death, darkness and light and the cyclical nature of existence are all excellent themes to meditate on at this time of year, with a natural introspective element to this season allowing us to perhaps go further, deeper than we could or would in the warmer, more outwardly focusing half of the year.

This season, with the increasing darkness and the lack of light here in the UK brings more sharply into focus thoughts of death and dying. It is often said in Western Paganism that the Sun God dies at Samhain and is reborn at Yule, when the days begin to lengthen and the light in our lives is increased. However, lately my thoughts have abandoned the concept of death, as well as birth, into a more Zen-like “No Birth, No Death” frame of mind.

Having meditated on this for a couple of months now, and seeing it reflected in nature around me, as a Druid this is how I internalise the teachings. For me, nature is the greatest teacher. I look to no other authority other than nature. It is the core of my religion, the core of my being. Having looked deeply into the nature of death and dying, of birth and living the concept of no death, no birth makes a lot more sense to me right now. Let me explain…

To read the full post, click HERE.